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Sherman city facilities could become more energy efficient

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
HVAC and air conditioning equipment sits atop Sherman City Hall. The city recently approved an agreement that  calls for equipment at city facilities to be audited for efficiency and cost savings upgrades.

An agreement that could allow it to upgrade aging buildings infrastructure at little to no end cost was a topic of discussion at a recent Sherman City Council meeting. This week, they voted this week to enter into a professional development agreement with Johnson Controls Inc. to audit city facilities to determine where new equipment could generate a cost savings for the city.

Through the agreement, Johnson Controls will assess the city's facilities and determine what equipment is at the end of its useful life and in need of replacement and upgrade. Through more efficient equipment, Johnson Controls guaranteed that the city will be able to offset the investment through cost savings.

"Basically our equipment is so old, so expensive to maintain and so energy inefficient that Johnson Controls says they can make us more energy efficient and upgrade your systems so we aren't have to pay for all these repairs and it will be a cost wash for the city in the long run," Council Member Josh Stevenson said. "We will end up with newer equipment and more efficient equipment."

Terrance Watts, representing JCI, said the audit would look at places where energy and maintenance efficiency can be improved in city facilities for equipment ranging from lighting to heating and air conditions or automated controls. Through an early survey, Watts said there could be about $1.5 million in infrastructure investment recommendations that comes from the audit.

On average, the equipment at city facilities has a lifespan of 15 to 18 years, but Watts said some city equipment is 20 or more years old. A chiller on the municipal building's HVAC system is 24 years old, as an example.

By upgrading the equipment, representatives for JCI said the city can reduce its operating costs and unexpected costs from aging machinery.

"What that does is create reduced operations cost along with budget predictability," said Roderick Roach, representing JCI.

The survey would cover most of the city's buildings, City Manager Robby Hefton said. Newer or recently improved buildings, including the public library, have updated equipment and would likely not need improvements.

"There is a list of the building and I stopped counting at 40," Hefton said. Some of the high-priority buildings include the fire stations, aside from Station 4, the municipal building and city hall, among others.

City Council Member Sandra Melton voiced some skepticism, noting that JCI's business model relies on them replacing and selling equipment. As such, there is an incentive for the company to recommend replacing equipment that otherwise may still be in working order.

"I am not saying you are that type of person, but sitting her that is what I would be thinking," Melton said. "That is your job, to sell us that equipment."

Representatives for JCI said they also have an incentive not to replace equipment that the city cannot offset the cost of through cost savings. In the event that the city cannot make up this expense over the lifespan of the equipment, then JCI will be liable for the difference.

"If the savings don't equate to the cost to replace over a certain period, they are writing us checks annually to make up the difference," Hefton said.

With Tuesday's approval, JCI will move forward with the assessment. If the city decides to not move forward with the improvements through JCI following the assessment, Sherman will pay JCI $50,000 to make up for engineering and other costs. However, the findings of the audit would stay with the city.

"Our goal isn't to leave the city with $50,000," Watts said. "Our goal is to leave the city with a sustainable, resilent opportunity to have new technology installed."